Feminique

‘Promote My Sister’ campaign aims at ending gender inequality

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) recently launched an all-women and girlfocused campaign, spotlighting and encouraging the critical efforts of many Nigerian women and girls to enable them to continue supporting one another, reports DEBORAH OCHENI

For women and girls having networks made up of other women and girls is essential to their empowerment and well-being. Studies have shown that individuals with access to diverse circles of other women from different sectors, professions and walks of life mean more life-changing opportunities and increased potential for socio-economic elevation, independence and security overall. Based on the socio-cultural and political obstacles that confront women and girls, it is very important to create girls-women groups so they can relate, guide, counsel and support one another. People in the group can also talk about their common strengths and weaknesses, share resources and, most significantly, a sorority that will benefit those women and girls who are most vulnerable. It is on this note that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Nigeria recently launched the ‘Promote My Sister’ campaign in Abuja as a tool to end all forms of gender inequality.

Promote my sister

‘Promote My Sister’ is an all women and girl focused campaign, spotlighting and encouraging the efforts many women and girls continue to make to support one another. Women hiring women, sharing information, mentoring, role-modelling, supporting, electing themselves or just simply being available for one another like sisters can have a life-altering impact and completely change the situation of the most affected and disadvantaged within this demographic. Strengthening these relationships, empowering, and establishing the sorority, are critical to accelerating the change needed to fully address the pervasive health and protection crises women and girls face today in Nigeria and globally. Speaking at an event to mark the launch, the campaign was described as an intervention aimed at ending violence against women, maternal mortality, harmful cultural practices and other forms of gender inequality in Nigeria. The Resident Representative of the UNFPA, Ulla Elisabeth Mueller said Nigeria would lose out on affecting social and economic growth if women’s rights were not protected.

Social growth

“The world is right now being challenged greatly. We have increased security concerns. We are facing a food security crisis, we are facing issues around climate change, we have a lot of migration, there are so many things going on in the world right now, that means that the world needs to protect children and women. “If we don’t make that happen, Nigeria will lose out on one of the best drivers of social, economic development this country has,” she said. Zubaida Abubakar, UNFPA Gender Specialist noted that 22 million child brides live in Nigeria adding that 19 per cent of 15 to 19 year olds are mothers or pregnant with their first child. “There is high rate of adolescent pregnancy: 122 per 1,000 adolescents aged 15 to 19 years have low access to family planning, thereby limiting access to education,” he said The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Ibrahim said: “The promotion of my sister completely promoted by the UNFPA Nigeria aims to raise awareness on a variety of meanings maintained by a range of women and girls from different fields that uplift and inspire as well as encourage one another. Promote my sister’s campaign is in line with some of the aspirations of national development which is to reduce maternal mortality and vulnerability of women.” The Minister of Women Affairs Pauline Tallen represented Asabe Bashir Vilita, who is the Director-General, National Centre Women Development, also noted that preventing violence against women and girls can promote economic growth. She described gender-based violence as one of the most oppressive forms of inequality.

Gender-based violence

“We need a system where women are almost ready to provide their fellow sisters with their numbers and protect them from enemies. Gender based violence remains the most oppressive form of gender inequality. It is one of the most serious threats to the health and safety of women and girls; it is deeply rooted in patriarchy and its devastating consequences are felt at social, economic, political and personal levels.

“Digital Economy, digital technologies are an essential part of our everyday life. However, the lack of opportunities, skills and discriminatory practices prevents women and girls of taking advantage of the available resources and potential. Participation in the digital space is limited due to inadequate inequitable access to education, affordability and the fact that the digital sphere belongs to the male gender.

“The COVID-19 crisis, which rationalised the way people use information communication technology (ICT) and other digital technologies to walk and interact has led to the urgency to promote gender, equal labour market opportunities and treatment at work and struggling for gender balance in the digital sector is of utmost importance not just to produce more but in playing justice for all, especially women, choosing science technology,” he said.

There is a need to address the gender gap. It is also important to note that increasing women’s participation in the digital phase can have an important impact on combating gender inequality, stereotype and discrimination improving access to the labour market for women as well as addressing the gender gap. The Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Clem Ikanade Agba commends UNFPA Nigeria for its commitment towards saving and protecting women and girls in Nigeria with the aim to end maternal death, unmet need for family planning, and gender-based violence as well as harm-ful practices, including child marriage and female genital mutilation.

“Nigeria and other sub- Saharan African regions are faced with the problem of gender-based violence (GBV) against women and girls, maternal deaths, unwanted pregnancies among the married and unmarried women as well as other harmful cultural practices. State and non-state actors have been involved in putting measures in place to address these menaces. However, for women and girls, having networks made up of other women and girls, such as ‘Promote My Sister’ (PMS) is essential to their empowerment and well-being” Adepeju Jaiyeoba, CEO Brown Button Foundation said girls and women have found themselves in a stereotyped environment and it’s not just a problem of education and that is why promoting my sister is important.

Stereotype environment

“The fight for human rights made me study law, in studying law, I realised the need to improve the status of women; I practiced law in Lagos until 2011 when a close friend died at child birth and her death put a face behind every statistics of maternal and child death I have seen. My friend that died was the best graduating in her class and that singular experience made me realise that childbirth is becoming a risky venture for women. How can all your dreams, hopes and aspirations end at child birth and everything will just come to an end? I also realise that access to quality health care was also an issue and that was how I founded Mothers Relief.

It’s really bad for women in rural communities as they give birth on bare floors. As a lawyer, my sense of justice changed and I started working around different communities. In working I realised much later an issue of nutrition, in 2018 when we celebrated reaching 500,000 mothers and their babies.

We realised that half of the children we were celebrating that day will not live to see their 5th birthday as a result of malnutrition. That is when I founded another project to provide affordable nutritious meals for children.” She noted that the ‘Promote my Sister’ campaign is personal to her because women work incredibly hard but credits of their achievements are always given to men. She urged women to be bold enough to promote their sisters.

 

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